There’s a popular networking event pertaining to your industry, you’ve got to attend the event, but you are unfamiliar with the faces. Although you might be prepared for the event, the minute you touch down your heart starts beating faster and suddenly you are unsure about how to mingle with the attendees at the event. Sounds like something you’ve experienced already?

While the world of social media and webinars have dominated communications over the last few years, there is nothing more effective than in-person interactions. They are still to this date considered to be more relevant and credible than any other platform of digital communications. It helps build businesses, make new friends, be a part of a stronger network, find jobs, build a hobby, ideation and so on. In a recent survey conducted, traditional networking helped 46% of people find new employment opportunities.

Here’s another interesting fact, did you know that 72% of people say that their impressions at networking events are based on the first appearance and their handshake? A good handshake is the start of a positive conversation on every occasion. Here are a few tips to help you navigate a networking event better. Ace your next networking event with these five tips.

1. Be yourself and dress to impress.

Be the confident version of yourself. Be genuine. The more authentic you are, the better you make friends at an event. Dress according to the occasion or event as specified in your invite. If its an industry associated event, dress professionally, if it’s a friendly gathering, dress casually but make yourself stand out from the crowd. Another interesting tip for those who are attending networking events is to carry more business cards than what you think you may need. It is also imperative to set an objective or an expectation of the requisite outcome for attending the event. Setting expectations prior to the event will help you pre-plan them better. Wear what instills confidence.

2. Make an effective introduction

An effective introduction is a start to a good conversation and a part of personal brand building. Start by making eye-contact, smile, a firm handshake and state your name. For instance, start your conversation with “Hello, I’m George Libanio and it’s a pleasure to meet you.” Before you get into the conversation, give them a minute to introduce themselves too.

After an effective introduction, the real task is to get started with a conversation. You could talk about the event venue, the setup, past events similar to this you may have come across, about your roles in the organization, news, and development.

3. Listen, then speak

Most people become self-absorbed that they forget to listen to the second person. Don’t cut conversations and be preoccupied with yourself. Give them undivided attention during the conversation. If you think you may need to follow up on the conversation later, take notes on the business card immediately.

4. Sit next to weak ties

They are also called bridges who are acquaintances of social ties that have appropriate recommendations for you. They are crucial to bringing new opportunities too. If not weak ties, find lone wolves like you. Solo attendees who are looking to connect with people at the event. Have an impromptu conversation with them and make plans after. They are usually an easy start point to get started with networking at events. If you are in the queue for registration, a conversation with a fellow attendee is also an easy conversation starter.

5. Ask great questions

Prepare a few good questions pertaining to the event and industry-specific topics that are relevant in your back pocket. Asking more about their job and background will make it look like you are interested in understanding them. Don’t constraint your answers in one word, state it in just 2 to 3 sentences. You don’t have to dig into the details right away. Always have a set of great questions ready for the people you are talking to as it helps start a better conversation. Always keep eye contact with your conversation partner and be aware of your body language too. Questions asked showcases that you are interested in knowing more about the topic, this will help build a rapport.

You don’t necessarily have to seek out for people who are loners, although it is a great starting point at events to get mingling. You could be a part of an ongoing conversation too. Wait for a natural interruption in the conversation and start by introducing yourself. For business networking events, take notes to follow up with the people you met at the event and would like to continue networking with. A note to say you enjoyed the conversation or meeting them, if relevant for business or if you think they are a great addition to your network make follow up plans. With these tips and ideas, you are ready to start networking like a BOSS! It’s all about building meaningful relationships and taking way shyness of talking to strangers. The key is to always be prepared before any event attendance. Prepare your introduction, practice your handshakes, be ready with business cards, skim through the guest list (if available) and identify your objective of attendance. Don’t do mere networking for the sake of it, make connections!

Happy Networking!